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Humid Little Ice Age in arid central Asia documented by Bosten Lake, Xinjiang, China

Abstract

Short sediment cores retrieved from Bosten Lake, the largest inland freshwater lake in China, were used to explore humidity and precipitation variations in arid central Asia during the past millennium. The chronology of the cores was established using 137Cs, 210Pb and AMS 14C dating results. Multi-proxy high-resolution analysis, including pollen ratios of Artemisia and Chenopodiaceae (A/C), carbonate content and grain size, indicates that the climate during the past millennium can be divided into three stages: a dry climate between 1000–1500 AD, a humid climate during the Little Ice Age (LIA) (c. 1500–1900 AD), and a warm dry period after 1900 AD. On centennial timescales, the climate change in northwestern China during the past 1000 years is characterized by oscillations between warm-dry and cold-humid climate conditions. All the proxies changed significantly and indicate increased precipitation during the LIA, including increased pollen A/C ratios and pollen concentrations, decreased carbonate content and increased grain size. The humid period during the LIA recorded by the Bosten Lake sediments is representative of arid central Asia and is supported by numerous records from other sites. During the LIA, the water runoff into the Keriya River and Tarim River in the Tarim Basin increased, while the ice accumulation in the Guliya ice core increased. Additionally, the lake levels of the Aral and Caspian Sea also rose, while tree-ring analysis indicates that precipitation increased. We hypothesize that both the lower temperature within China and the negative anomalies of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) during this period may have contributed to the humid climate within this area during LIA.

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Correspondence to Chen Fahu.

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Chen, F., Huang, X., Zhang, J. et al. Humid Little Ice Age in arid central Asia documented by Bosten Lake, Xinjiang, China. SCI CHINA SER D 49, 1280–1290 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-006-2027-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-006-2027-4

Keywords

  • multiproxy analyses
  • Bosten Lake
  • humid Little Ice Age
  • past millennium
  • arid central Asia